10 Replies Latest reply on Jul 18, 2017 4:36 AM by CICT

    MacBook 12" - any good?


      With a few spare minutes to hand, this may be of interest to anyone who, like me,  knows they should purchase a MacBook Pro 13" for portability, but goes weak at the knees when picking up the MacBook 12" in terms of size and weight.


      After much agony and a long wait for the Kaby Lake versions, I finally took the plunge on the 2017 mid-range MacBook 12" i5-Y (note, not a full i5) as we do travel quite a bit and develop on planes, trains and in passenger seats in cars. I opted for the mid-range standard edition, as the risk was low, if it worked, then I could purchase the next release with more RAM or storage and move this one on, if it failed, then still move it on and purchase the MacBook Pro I know I should have bought in the first place, or just use it for traveling and wait for a new Mac Mini for the office. Most reviews I've read have been for the entry level M3 processor and, with all the best will in the world, I never thought one of these would be up to the job.


      So is the mid-range model good enough for FileMaker development? I'm coming from a low benchmark. We don't normally need huge processing as virtually all our development is via cloud servers and Citrix or Microsoft RemoteApp servers streaming FileMaker Pro and Advanced, so all heavy processing is carried out within the IAAS infrastructure. Last year I'd extended the life on my 2009 MacBook Pro 17" (originally rescued from a client who'd spilt a very expensive bottle of Chardonnay over the keyboard many years ago) by the addition of a 1Tb SSD drive and my travel 2011 MacBook Air, with a 480Gb SSD drive. I have been running our company on 6 and 9 year old Macs.


      All the MacBooks are hooked up to a 1080p or other external monitor when in the office and, while travelling, an iPad (4th gen) via Lightning cable and Duet. The decision to add a 10.5' iPad Pro to act as a second monitor while travelling was taken.


      I've not had an opportunity to test fully on the road as yet, but initial office based tests are good. I purchased the Apple HDMI, USB-C, USB-A adapter and a new powered Anker USB 3.0 hub, to which I could attach a USB to Ethernet adapter. This has just been supplemented by the arrival of a Satechi HDMI, 3 x USB-A, USB-C, Ethernet, SD and Micros SD card hub for traveling - I'll soon be able to find out if this gets as hot as I've heard some hubs can. If all continues to go well, the 1Tb SSD comes out of the MacBook 17" and goes into an Anker USB 3.0 2.5" enclosure to allow me to travel with my (way too large) iTunes and Photos libraries.


      If I were coming from, say a 3 year old MacBook Pro, I may not have been as pleased as I am, but this thing really has impressed me so far. It will run both the 1080p and the 10.5" iPad to provide 3 screens when in the office. Ironically, due to the size of the MacBook, I can drag it nearer to me and therefore the smaller screen is less of an issue to my ageing eyes.


      Due to problems with Citrix Receiver for Mac and FileMaker 16 I've been working for the last 2 days testing Receiver on Windows 10 on Parallels, with Outlook, FileMaker Pro 16, Chrome, Skype, Excel, etc. running alongside and, whereas both the older machines just about ran Windows, this thing really does allow it to be used without any noticeable performance problems and I've been quite happy to continue my development in this manner without any productivity hit.


      Ironically, the only thing I haven't had a chance to test as yet is sitting in a nice apartment somewhere with the MacBook and iPad only, or traveling with it on my lap. Therefore no comments on the keyboard or screen as yet, but these are areas much has been written about, mostly positively.


      It is early days, but so far this little Mac has really impressed me and, subject to not finding the screen too small to work with (bearing in mind I've spent years using  the MacBook Air screen) I don't see me returning to anything bigger or heavier.


      I have run FM Pro and Pro Advanced side by side locally for development work, with other apps. I haven't as yet carried out any web updating or Final Cut Pro editing. However, if it can run half a dozen apps and run Windows 10 smoothly in Parallels at the same time, I'm optimistic this won't be a problem.


      I still haven't read a review that truly tests the MacBook. There are plenty of 'not powerful enough' comments on the M3 entry version and '1 USB-C port isn't enough'. I've always had to carry dongles with me, for HDMI, VGA, DVI, Thunderbolt to Ethernet, USB-A to Ethernet for the MacBook Air, so I can't believe a single multi-port hub will bother me too much. Even the Apple one would probably do while traveling, providing I use a bluetooth mouse. If I purchase another one in the future, it will be with more storage and the iTunes and Photos external storage will go.


      So far so good and I have a grin on my face each time I throw my backpack over my shoulder, the weight difference between the MacBook Air and 4th generation iPad compared to the MacBook and 10.5" iPad Pro is amazing (and OneNote becomes much more use with the Apple Pencil). Performance, so far, has way exceeded my expectations. I've seen no evidence of processor throttling as yet (previous reviews of the older MacBooks highlighted that the M7 would throttle back more than the more energy efficient M5, but I don't believe these tests are available as yet for the I5-Y and I7-Y).


      If my opinion changes with use, I'll update here. But for now I'm glad I made the decision I did. I hope this helps someone through the agonising I went through.





        • 1. Re: MacBook 12" - any good?
          Johan Hedman

          Apples can really make you pay a fortune for a good computer, especially when it comes to fast SSD. Glad you enjoy your new computer.


          Do I need to get glasses to be able to see things clearly?

          • 2. Re: MacBook 12" - any good?

            Hi Johan


            I hope all is well. It was the screen that first caught my eye (I do wear glasses) and launched FileMaker when in an Apple Store and thought, "I could develop on this". The unknown all the time was the performance.


            Of the 3 ways we use our computers, I now know that it will run multiple screens in the office (if I include my iPad using Duet) and it will enable work from a hotel room or alternative location using the iPad as my reference screen. I still haven't tested the car passenger seat/train/plane seat using the screen on its own, but as it has more 'real estate' than the MacBook Air I've used for years, I don't perceive this to be a problem.


            The keyboard will take a bit of getting used to, but I understand this is the same on the MacBook Pros, but again no major issue. And yes, the SSD is very fast!


            I would say that if you can see a standard MacBook Pro screen without glasses, the 12" screen is as sharp (and much clearer than my non retina MacBook Air), then you won't need them for this.


            One thing I omitted from the above: I was so close to jumping ship to a Surface Pro (I'm an Apple user from 1985, the original 128Kb Mac). Alan (who you've met) has both a Surface Book and Surface Pro (having had v3, 4 and now 5) and still prefers the Surface Pro to the Surface Book for FileMaker development. In the end my investment in other Mac software, the inability of Windows to run the same version of FileMaker Pro and Advanced alongside each other (in my case one for time sheets and reference and the other for development) and virus risk kept me under the Apple umbrella.


            Kindest regards



            • 3. Re: MacBook 12" - any good?

              One additional comment, I agree on the price but it is worth considering that I have used my main computer for 9 years and my mobile for 6, I wonder how the cost of ownership over that time would compare with a cheaper Windows laptop?


              What I really enjoy is developing in FileMaker 13, 14, 15 and 16 (mostly the last 2 now) using a £150 HP ChromeBook via Citrix Receiver or Remote Desktop, now that is serious value for money!



              • 4. Re: MacBook 12" - any good?
                Johan Hedman

                I have a 15" today and are spending quite some time developing out at my clients office where I do not have extra monitors. I am afraid I will not have screen enough to develop as easy as it is right now if I go down to 13" and even more for a 12"


                Hope to see you in Stockholm in October for Scandinavian DevCon.

                • 5. Re: MacBook 12" - any good?

                  I can understand that and time will tell whether eventually the screen size is just too small.


                  With our cloud setup we rarely need to visit clients, many of whom are in different countries. Equally, when we do visit it can involve quite a lengthy journey, also we are able to travel and work from anywhere, hence the mobility preferences (25th wedding anniversary last March and Val and I had Macs on the bar of a tall sailing ship with satellite broadband around the coast of Thailand - one of the nicer places to provide FileMaker support!)


                  We are very hopeful to join you in Stockholm in October, I received your message and will reply shortly.


                  Kind regards



                  • 6. Re: MacBook 12" - any good?
                    Johan Hedman

                    Congratulations!! Next time bring me as support and arrange a FileMaker event


                    Hope you can make to Stockholm. We got some great speakers this year.

                    • 7. Re: MacBook 12" - any good?

                      Thanks Johan


                      We've not done bad, 25 years married and 15 years working side by side developing in FileMaker (definitely the FileMaker family, as we're currently training our son).


                      Matt Navarra and Matt Petrowsky arranged a FileMaker train journey a few years ago, perhaps we can arrange a 'SailCon' in the future :-)


                      Below possibly the best argument for using our FileMaker cloud system? MacBook Air shown now down in size to 12" to keep on track and I will message you re: Stockholm this week.



                      • 8. Re: MacBook 12" - any good?

                        An update on the MacBook 12" as a development computer.


                        I've just received a bonus whilst connecting the iPad Pro 10.5" with the discovery of Duet Pro. I'm finding the iPad as a second (when travelling) or third (in the office) display very useful, almost more useful than the MacBook's screen, that is a littler further away due to the keyboard when located alongside the 1080p display and the position of my mousepad. I'm even starting to consider the Apple Magic Mouse as usable having abandoned (for now) the Logitech MX Anywhere 2 mouse, which i really like but requires a USB-A dongle.


                        The addition of Duet Pro now allows me to have a Surface like screen for the MacBook, so I can use the Apple Pencil with my Mac apps, I can now use the Mac or IOS version of OneNote with the pencil and can scribble way as I choose - drawing apps also work, including pressure sensitivity.


                        Grabbing some (rare UK) sun the MacBook didn't like me working outside in direct sunlight with a temperature warning appearing pretty quickly, so I had to revert to the shade. Guess that's a penalty for the lack of fan.


                        In terms of dongles in the office my choice is to retain the Apple USB-C multiport adapter connected to the Ankar USB hub and the main screen, this works well particularly with a USB-A to Ethernet adapter connected to the hub.


                        I've used both the Satechi and an Aukey hub and both do get very hot when in use (as frequently reported), hence these will be reserved for traveling and the cool running Apple hub left in the office - I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving something connected for the majority of the time that runs that hot. The Satechi provides HDMI output and is very light, the Aukey VGA, which is much heavier, but runs slightly cooler.


                        We have travelled recently and the arrangement works very well. I even had to do some file uploads on our cloud servers for our Indian client while watching the qualifying at the Formula 1 grand prix at Silverstone last weekend, but having the MacBook in my backpack meant it was hardly noticed when walking around and the 4G connection via the iPhone meant the request could be completed quickly.


                        All in all I'm very happy with the new setup, which fits my requirements very well. The 1Tb Samsung Evo 850 drive is now out of the old 17" MacBook Pro and in the Ankar caddy with my iTunes and Photo libraries loaded and I'm fully committed to the MacBook - Suface. If only it had a Thunderbolt 3 connector!


                        It will be coming to Sweden with me Johan!




                        • 9. Re: MacBook 12" - any good?
                          Johan Hedman

                          you got to show me how your setup is, I might even consider switching to a smaller computer now. Look forward to see you at Scandinavian DevCon

                          • 10. Re: MacBook 12" - any good?

                            Be glad to. We must register, but need a bit of time working out the best flights to the more central airports.